Sunday, August 25, 2013

GOP, Big Business Will Laud Scott Hassett's Baffling Remarks

Madison attorney Scott Hassett is a former Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and was the defeated Democratic candidate for Attorney General in 2010 - - but the support he gave to his GOP counterpart in the DNR Secretary's office in an interview published online today is a regrettable slap at Democrats and environmentalists.

Hassett told the Capital Times he saw nothing wrong with DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp - - hand-picked to run the agency by Scott Walker with what he said was a "chamber-of-commerce mentality" - - decoupling science from law enforcement in a reorganization that strengthens the power of the Secretary's top, pro-business political appointees.

"There’s no real link between law enforcement and science," Hassett said.

Two thoughts:

*  The timing of Hassett's remarks couldn't be worse. The Walker administration, not satisfied with a clutch of corporate servants at the helm of the DNR, is accelerating its control over all state environmental policy and what's left of regulation.

The GOP is also driving its long-time Richland Center State Senator Dale Schultz out of the legislature over his strong, pro-environmental objections to his party's legislating to enable a northern Wisconsin iron mine.

Why would any Democrat, even a moderate like Hassett, give the GOP and Secretary Stepp any cover or credit?

Look - - I know that Gov. Doyle was not a flaming environmentalist. And that he appointed DNR Secretaries like Hassett and former state corrections chief Matt Frank (note: ID correction from Matt Flynn earlier posting) to run the agency so it would make minimal waves, protect his right flank, keep business relatively happy and mute the more rabid DNR haters - - like Stepp, which is why she's there now.

But that was then and this is now and the DNR is part of the Right's ideological assault on science - - under Stepp, the DNR has even removed information about climate change from its webpades that Doyle-era personnel had posted - - at the very time that science needs to honored as a changing climate and corporate rapacity for natural resources and the public's water are heating up.

*  Furthermore, the rationale for coordination between science and enforcement at the DNR is plainly obvious right now.

Under Walker, the DNR has down-played its entire enforcement role - - a "philosophy" and action which Stepp said would get no apology - - just as frac sand mining, with serious downwind and downstream health and safety consequences, is exploding around the state.

Ditto for the impact of fast-expanding large dairies.

And much of the debate over the GTAC iron mine proposal in the Bad River watershed near Ashland - - which Stepp had supported from her office as the bill was being debated - - has focused on this key question:

Can the fast-tracked DNR mine-permitting process pushed through the Legislature over Schultz and Democrats' opposition, and that screams "chamber-of-commerce mentality," adequately or honestly apply and merge good science with enforcement of state and federal clean air and water standards and laws?

Hassett told the Capital Times he didn't think Stepp's reorganization was "insidious."

I agree. It's not insidious - - it's an upfront power grab by people with a track record of tailoring DNR policy and enforcement actions to corporate agendas.

From the early hours of Scott Walker's administration.

In the interview, Hassett had plenty of criticism of Walker's management of state environmental policy, but backing Stepp's reorganization was plenty dissonant.

And discouraging.

1 comment:

hankdog said...


I think you have willfully taken that "separate science from enforcement" quote out of context and without any preamble. Anybody that read the background would know that they eliminated the DIVISION of Enforcement and Science, and shuffled the deck chairs. That has happened under every administration in the last 40 years since I have been actively involved. That doens't mean they eliminated any science functions, or enforcement functions, but rather have them in different administrative areas.

Example: In the 1980's and early 90's the precursor to the Science Services program reported directly to Secretary Besadny. In subsequent reorganizations they were joined with the Division of Enforcement for reasons mainly associated with the number of reports needed to be a supervisor.

I'm no stepp/walker supporter, but you sure must have better things to do than pole vault over this ant hill.